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Painting from photos or strictly from life?


Painting from photographs is bad! This is what artists will tell you and they’re right of course. Cameras aren’t up to scratch when it comes to viewing a scene. Where’s the focus? Are the colours right? I’m sure it looked much brighter when I was looking at it! Not to mention that the foreshortening is all done for you but only in a way that the camera wants to do it so that when you come to paint the picture, it doesn’t look right.

Having finally found all of this out, I still find myself using photos as a reference because, well why not? Because, as long as I allow for the misrepresentations made by the camera, I can use a photograph to paint my children in a certain scene for example. A scene I will never be able to recreate again. I might be asked to paint someone’s pet, someone who lives over the other side of the country and may never be able to meet them. I could say, “I’m sorry I only paint from life”, or I could say, “Send me a dozen photos from different angles and in different lighting and I’ll see what I can do but it won’t be perfect”.

I can’t promise I’ll never paint from photographs again but I’ll certainly try not to! In the meantime, here’s some I’m working on (from photographs):


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Griffin Alkyd Fast Drying Oils

I went to an oil painting demo a couple of weeks back at Lovely’s gallery in Margate. The demo was Anthony Giles who paints wonderful seascapes and sunsets of a Turneresque type. He was using these fast drying oils which I’ve never tried before. I bought some, determined to try to speed up the drying time of painting in oils. They really work!

For certain types of painting, they are ideal but I wouldn’t be able to use them all the time, occasionally I like to continue mixing colours on the canvas for a very long time but these are dry by the next day almost.

Heres a rough copy of the painting Anthony did in the demo, it’s obviously not up to the same standard but it opens the door for me to explore this type of subject, for that I am thankful.

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Oil paint drying rack

We are running out of drying space for the oil paintings so there was a need to be creative with our space.

I have a few oil paintings on the go, each at various stages and each drying at different speeds, some thin some thick.

I looked up some solutions and decided that a vertical rack type thing would work best for is. Here it is at the top left of this photo, there is only 2 paintings on it at the moment just to see if it works. I’ll make some more holes, to hold about 15 or so paintings I guess.

Also in the photo is a couple of winter paintings of our daughtets. Hopefully they will turn into full colour portraits before too long…

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Values excercise

values sphere painting

I’m doing lots of exercises in an attempt to hone my skills as a painter. They say design and values makes a painting more than colour alone. Here’s a values exercise in oils, it has a thin earthy underlayer and using a pallette of black and white, with several mixes in between, painted the sphere and background. I might go over it with some colour but I’m also tempted to leave it like this. 60x50cm oil on canvas.


values sphere painting
Values sphere